Austin Tri-Cyclist Blog

Thursday, April 30, 2015

2015 Fayetteville Stage Race, W123 Race Report

Fayetteville Stage Race Day 2, Photo by Ino Sofjan
by Marla Briley

As I am writing up this race report the theme from the The Lego Movie keeps running through my

Everything is awesome
Everything is cool when you're part of a team
Everything is awesome
When we're living our dream

Those lyrics sum up this weekend of racing with my truly awesome teammates as we live the dream of racing our bikes.

Saturday morning the team woke to Armageddon outside. The never trusty weather reports had predicted storms would be passing through around 4 a.m. They must have stopped in Austin for a breakfast taco because they didn’t reach Fayetteville till 6 a.m.  The rain was coming down in sheets; the lighting would have been beautiful if I hadn’t been picturing myself having to ride my bike in it.

We kept checking the race Facebook page for updates, but there was total radio silence. Finally, Christie, never shy, found the race director’s number and called him. There was a 30-minute delay to the start of racing. Looking at the WeatherBug radar, I could see this was the first of many storm cells that were stomping their way across our location, so I didn’t think 30 minutes would make much of a difference.

GC podium - Mina, Marla, Allison
We load up our bikes, wading through the lake that had been the driveway, and head out into the storm. I have to pause here in my report and comment on a 24-hour bike race that had started at 7 p.m. the previous day. I was certain that all of the racers would have been scooped up and driven to safety, but as we traverse the windy roads toward town, barely able to make out what is in front of us, I see a light as bright as a train headlight heading our way. One of the 24-hour riders is still on the road. All I can think is “Lunatic.”

We arrive at the staging area to find there is another 30-minute delay. We set up our bikes under cover and wait as the cells move over us, leaving us clear one moment and then in a torrential downpour the next. Finally, after two hours of delays we are told the first stage will be cancelled. I do a happy dance. We are just about to roll back to our cars when the sun pops out and the race official tells us we’re on again. Geesh, they’re worse than a woman trying to decide what shoes to wear to a party.

We line up without further ado and off we go. The roads are still wet, but the sun is out so it’s like we’re riding through a sauna.

Sadly, the women’s field this year was the smallest I have ever seen it. ATC Racing made up over half the field. Because of this we plan to attack in pairs and wear out the other girls, saving Mina and Allison for an end-of-race attack. One of the nice things about women’s racing is you pretty much know everyone and you know their strengths and weaknesses. We’re fairly certain no one can challenge Mina or Allison on the time trial except for the one unknown Cat1 rider from Vermont. We’re about five miles in when we hit the biggest hill, which would be the KOM the next day, on the course. Right after we crest the hill, I launch an attack. Missy was supposed to be my wingman, but I don’t do a good job of communicating my intent and I leave her behind.

About 10 seconds later she catches up to me, but so does the rest of the pack. That’s okay. We have 29 more miles to practice the “Attack with Wingman.” About half a mile down the road we turn into the wind. I gleefully launch again, once again leaving without Missy. (I’m not very good at this “Attack with Wingman” stuff.) All I keep thinking is, “C’mon, Ms. Vermont, chase me down.” But she doesn’t, and neither does anyone else for that matter. My teammates are setting a false tempo at the front and covering attacks, so for the next 28 miles it’s me and the 99 Bottles of Beer song running through my head. I don’t even have a working Garmin, so I have no idea how far I am into this TT effort until I hit the hotspot at mile 23, with just 11 more miles to go. I have never been so happy to see the 2K sign in my life. I rolled into the finish, solo, with a three-minute gap on the field. The rest of the race finished in a field sprint with Mina taking the sprint and Anne coming in second. ATC now sat at 1, 2, 3 in GC.

After the race it’s off the bike and back to the house we have rented for the weekend. Now is the time that I give a shout-out to one of the best places to stay in Fayetteville, The Wild Rose Cottage. It is located at mile 9 on the bike course, so nine miles out from town. The accommodations are great, though we did see more than one spider in the house. Eek! The owners made an amazing breakfast for us, getting up at 3 a.m. Saturday morning to make us sausage, bacon, eggs, skillet potatoes, and biscuits, all ready by 6 a.m. It is the second year we have stayed here, and it is the perfect place to chill out after the races.

Due to all the delays earlier that morning, the TT had been pushed back, for us, from a 4 p.m. start to around 6 p.m. That gave us about five hours to eat, rest our legs, and then load up our TT bikes and head back into town. Our team is unique among other bike racers in that almost all of us have time trial bikes. It may be because half of us come from triathlon backgrounds where we call them “triathlon bikes.” Thanks to ATC for my beautiful P3, TriRig for my super aero front brake, and my boyfriend for this year’s birthday gift of a disc wheel, my bike was fast even if I wasn’t.  My legs were pretty toasted from my earlier effort, and my watts were nowhere near what my coach and I had planned, but thanks to the tech doping, I was still able to pull out the third best effort behind my teammates Allison and Mina. Once again we were 1, 2, 3 in GC. After the TT, Allison moved up to third place and Mina and I were still firmly in first and second.

Sunday our group would not go off till 11 a.m. So we slept in a bit…..6:30 this time….and slowly started our day with another homemade breakfast of sausage, bacon, and fluffy French toast sprinkled with bananas, nuts, and strawberries. Most of my team is gluten free, but even those gluten nay-sayers could not say “no” to vanilla syrup and French toast. Our bellies full, we loaded our bikes, packed our suitcases, and said “goodbye” to the Wild Rose Cottage.

Since we held the top three spots in GC, all we really needed to do during the last stage was control the field and keep the tempo high enough to dissuade attacks but not so high that I’d get shelled. My legs were still pretty tired from the previous day’s efforts. I actually have a terrible time with cramping at the end of races. This road race was only 50 miles, but the temperature was predicted to be in the high 80s with high humidity. The perfect combination for cramping.

If you were one of the other riders in our race you would have said not much happened, but I can tell you there was quite a bit of teamwork going on. Missy was designated wheel bearer for Mina and Allison since they all ride 11 speeds. If one of them flatted, then Missy would either give them her wheel, or if a wheel change was quick from the car, she would help them back to the pack. Chelsea was my wheel girl and my babysitter. Allison and Christie sat on the front most of the race, keeping the tempo high. The only time where I felt like I wanted to let the pack go was when they were driving the pace. I had to ask Chelsea to tell them to slow it down. Mina was like our cattle dog keeping the pack together. If someone tried to attack, she’d go get them and literally herd them back to the group. Anne sat at the back, and between her help and Chelsea’s, I was never in the wind. Allison really wanted to attack the pack in hopes of getting the stage win. She could have and I have no doubt she would have eventually gotten away, but she would have ripped my legs off in the process.  We agreed, with 2K to go, she should take off. I had three minutes on the other girls, and I was fairly certain I would not lose three minutes in the last 2K.  Allison took off, and the group sluggishly started the chase. I held on, but after she got caught, she attacked again and my right hamstring decided it had had enough and cramped. I limped in, taking last place for the day but still first in GC. We didn’t sweep the podium on the second stage, but we did remain 1, 2, 3 for GC.

It was great to get to spend the weekend with my team. I think we learned quite a bit about each other: like who is not a morning person, who is afraid of spiders, and who brings a stuffed animal with her when she travels. My team took care of me this weekend, whether it was making sure I was safely in the pack, reminding me to take my salt tabs, chasing down attacks, or overall controlling the race. Every time I race with this team, I remember why I switched from an individual sport where I relied only on me to a sport where we share in the work but also in the glory.

Specs on Marla's breakaway companion:
Her name? BOLT

  • 2012 48cm Team S5 frame and fork
  • 2010 Zipp 404 clinchers (aluminum rim)
  • Continental 4000s II tires
  • Shimano Ultegra 10 spd (11-28) gruppo 
  • 165mm Quarq Elsa crankset
  • Rotor chainrings (52-36)
  • 3T aluminum stem 
  • Ergonova bars
  • SpeedPlay Zero pedals
  • Serfas Carma seat
  • ATC bar tape
  • Care and feeding by the fast and friendly staff at Austin Tri-Cyclist!

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